Her story is unique, brave and hopeful. Yulia “Taira” Paievskaparamedic founder of the volunteer ambulance corps Taira Angels, has become one of the most visible faces of the Ukrainian war. Captured by Russian troops and imprisoned for more than three months suffering torture in inhumane conditions, Their survival today translates into an example of courage and sacrifice for millions of people around the world.
“If it hadn’t been for society’s insistence and resistance, I’m sure I wouldn’t be alive right now,” she explains convinced from Washington in an exclusive interview for LA RAZÓN. The State Department and the White House have just awarded you one of the awards “International Women of Courage” in recognition of his work providing care and medical assistance to war wounded, civilians and soldiers, on both sides of the conflict.
“It is a bittersweet moment: I am very grateful and overwhelmed by this atmosphere, feeling that I am doing something useful for the world, but at the same time I am very sad because in the last few days many of my friends have died at the hands of Russian aggressors on the front lines. of war”.
The Taira’s two cents in this war have been the Taira Angels unarmed volunteer evacuation ambulances, originally created in 2015, which have served since the Russian invasion began in February 2024. “to evacuate civilians and military from the battlefront or those who need it”. Thus, they are provided with medical care facilities and, while moving through conflict zones, are offered medical assistance. “All the material and technical things, cars and ambulances, were destroyed in Mariupol, but the people survived. So now these people are in other units of the Ukrainian forces and continue to do their job from there.”
Taira humbly acknowledges that she does not consider herself an exceptional person: “This is not my personal award, but for all Ukrainian women. All of them are strong women and they are resisting the enemy in this Russian aggression. We are all united and do whatever it takes. Some in the front line of the Army, others behind. But all together, despite the language and nationality. We are all Ukrainian and we all have a common goal”, he explains in a private conversation, facilitated by the Biden Administration press team. And he adds, with hope and conviction: “We will win as soon as possible and our territories will be liberated.”
When asked for details of his experience in captivity, he immediately refuses to answer. “I would like to reject the question because, if I specifically describe my torture and suffering, it could be taken in support of those who are still there now in Russian prisons,” she justifies anguished.
But, before being able to react, he decides to speak again: “We have a lot of people detained for no reason. Completely illegal. There is no law there, absolutely nothing. Denied medical assistance, no hygiene measures, no toothbrush or toothpaste… nothing. The conditions of captivity are very, very difficult, ”she still remembers with pain.
During the three months and one day that he was imprisoned, he was only able to shower once. “They don’t give you clean clothes to change into, what you wear is what you keep.”. They seized his personal belongings, including the medicine he needs. For his thyroid, a daily pill without which he cannot function normally, and for his asthma, an inhaler without which he has difficulty breathing. “When I needed it, I had to knock on the door to ask for it. Sometimes it took ten minutes, sometimes an hour.”
They cut off all contact with the outside world. “I couldn’t ask anything. Neither by war, nor by military units. They were asking me totally stupid questions in front of the camera,” he adds. AND “they also have torture material” that they used viciously against Taira when “they wanted him to speak on camera and confess to crimes that he had not committed,” he explains without wanting to recall more details. “I resisted and they punished me, I received more and more torture,” he adds.
Although during those months, from March 16 to June 17, 2022, Taira was not alone. Along with her, 21 other Ukrainian women shared the tiny 3 x 6 meter cell as prisoners of the Russian forces. But she was the only one of them released afterwards, in exchange for a Russian man she couldn’t make out without her glasses. They had also been seized along with their belongings.
Before being captured, Taira had risked her life recording harrowing images from a body-worn video camera. The Ukrainian paramedic recorded the atrocities of the Russian military on the battlefield in what initially, before the outbreak of the conflict, was going to be used for a Netflix documentary and delivered the material on a small data card to the Associated Press agency, which his team of correspondents was able to remove from Mariupol hidden in a tampon, as they were the last to leave the totally destroyed area and, to do so, crossed up to 15 positions of Russian check.
Caring for Ukrainian and Russian soldiers alike while providing medical care in the area hardest hit by the war also saved his life. After the increasing social pressure for the retention of her, the Russian forces decided to release her.
Leaving, much to his regret, many others behind. “Unfortunately, this keeps happening. There are people captured for a year. Volunteers who have not been able to be exchanged by any international law. They allege that people are Nazis or something like that and they deny them to release them,” he denounces angrily, adding: “They hold captive people who are doctors, health personnel, civilians, children… The children are taken to Russia, even though their parents stay alive They are taking our children”, without knowing exactly where or why.
And, despite the misfortune, he raises his voice to explain to the world from Washington that “Ukrainian society is united in the face of such a strong enemy. And right now I am trying to let the whole world know what is really happening there and to tell everyone how brave my people are and how great our soldiers are”, she highlights with pride and admiration.
An admiration that he transfers by way of gratitude: “We are not going to ask you to come to Ukraine and fight in our ranks, on our side – if someone wants to do it, let them do it -, we can do it alone. But if you can help us with medical assistance, treating our wounded, helping us with weapons, organizing the recovery phase of our country after the war… we will be very grateful. We are very grateful for what they are doing for us.”
Another ten exemplary women from all over the world have been awarded, together with Yuliia “Taira” Paievska, in a ceremony traditionally organized by the Department of State, which in its 17th edition the first lady Jill Biden It has also been involved as a hostess, delivering the awards for the first time at the White House, making them coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8.
Now, back in Ukraine after receiving recognition in the US capital, the winner plans to continue doing exactly the same: “Everything I have done in this war: my work at the front, treating the wounded.”